Women have faced myriad challenges in the society. These challenges have influenced their perception of gender issues, and how they affect women. Women have been subjected to a lot of subordination and domination due to the prevalence of patriarchal practices in several societies. “Feminism refers to a group of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women” (Schneider, 1988). Feminism ideas extend beyond women’s rights. Although feminism essentially deals with issues related to women, it also strives to gain gender equality. In this case, some feminists contend that feminism should facilitate emancipation of men because they are victims of gender roles. Some of them are affected by sexism. Feminists are individuals whose behaviours are guided by feminism principles.
Feminism as discipline has undergone a tremendous development right from the 18th century until present. “The history of modern western feminist movement is divided into three waves, and each of them deals with distinct feminist issues” (Hunter, 2001). Women’s suffrage movement marked the origin of feminism, and it started in the 18th century. This movement fought for the voting rights of women. Hence, it was called the Liberal feminism because it enabled women to have the chance of influencing political processes in Europe. The second wave aimed at improving and addressing women’s issues especially from the 1960s. For example, during this phase of feminism movement, women tried to liberate themselves from inhuman practices such as oppression. “The third wave refers to a continuation of and, a reaction to, the perceived failures of the second wave feminism, beginning in the 1990s” (Hunter, 2001).
As women struggle to identify the origins of their oppression in the society, they have realized that patriarchy has remained a significant obstacle in achieving equality. Therefore, the analysis of patriarchy stemmed from women’s challenges, and their struggle to overcome them. Patriarchy is a system of leadership where the adult male primarily controls economic and social set up both at the family and society levels. Consequently, “this system establishes male dominance and controls over women in society, in general, and particularly so within the family” (Hill, 1991).
At present, the relevance of feminism and how it is perceived by young women has been debated by many scholars and feminists themselves. In my view, feminism still has a significant role in improving the status of women. It is clear from the above discussion that women have grappled with numerous constraints, yet they have not addressed all of them. It would, therefore, be wrong for an individual to question the relevance of feminism because it is through it that women have been able to progress in society.
In other words, the advancement of women could not have been possible if it were not for their own struggles through various feminism movements. The manner young women understand feminism is quite dynamic, and this is dictated by the social conditions as well as their economic status. The young generation of women are increasingly having access to better education, and this has partly influenced their approach to issues related to feminism. “This diversity reveals the importance not only race and class, but also of life experience in the development of attitudes toward feminism” (Morgan, 2010).
Studies on feminism reveal that, in the 1980s, approximately thirty five percent of women identified themselves as feminists. In the early 1990s, over eighty percent of women were committed toward transforming and improving their status in society (Marx & Beth, 2005). The media have been examining why only a small percentage of women identify themselves as feminists. “In addressing this question, Marx Ferree and Beth Hess contended that the number of women who do so represent the same percentage of people who label themselves as Republicans and Democrats” (Marx & Beth, 2005). Women have increasingly questioned how men perceive and handle power.
Nonetheless, young women have not gained much gender consciousness compared to the consciousness demonstrated by the elderly and working women. For example, elderly women have been questioned why they have been undervalued in the job market. African American women have also been conscious about women’s issues. Activists and politicians usually exhibit a better knowledge of political labels. On the other hand, an average woman may fail to demonstrate a clear understanding of feminism and other political labels, but she may still support the concepts and aims of feminism.
The media developed a terminology called the post feminist generation, which they used to refer to young women who were between the ages of eighteen to thirty. From the 1980s, this term gained much prominence among young women, whose conditions were improved by the efforts and achievements of feminists. For instance, the access to better education and employment is longer possible for many young women across the world. Consequently, “post feminism has been debated about, since its usage connotes the death of feminism, and because the equality it assumes is largely a myth” (Marx & Beth, 2005).
The second-wave movement registered many achievements in terms of maintaining the organization of women and other interest groups. However, it also faced some backlash. For instance, grassroots mobilization reduced significantly, and antifeminist raised some criticism against it. Studies on feminism, especially among young women, indicate that they are increasingly becoming depoliticized. Most of the young women have become individualistic, and they no longer treat themselves as feminists. In this context, we find that several young women are seeking independent solutions, and they deal with feminism concepts without necessarily labelling them. Several apolitical women have the assumption that they will not face discrimination themselves. “Their attitudes are also influenced by the media, which have supported the antifeminist backlash and have implied that no further feminist action is needed” (Bellafante, 1995).
The above discussion on feminism clearly demonstrates the significance of feminism and how women have managed to overcome societal practices that impact on them negatively. Women have embraced or treated feminism ideologies differently depending on their circumstances (Pamela, 2001). For example, “women of colour contend that the women’s movement has put white, middle-class concerns at its centre and ignored the ideas of women of color” (Hill, 1991). Hence, black women did not have access to full participation in women’s movement. In conclusion, despite the criticism of feminism backlash, feminism is still important in addressing the myriad constraints women encounter in the society. Women should, therefore, remobilize themselves and redefine their objectives in feminism. This will enable them to improve their conditions both economically and politically. “Most important, whether or not young women call themselves feminists, they support feminist goals” (Hunter, 2001).